Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 6 June 2013


Badgers are beautiful creatures. But they are carriers of Bovine Tuberculosis which they regularly pass on to cattle over large chunks of the country, including in South Devon.

Which is why after years of shilly-shallying, the government has instigated a limited cull of contaminated badgers in two pilot areas of the country to see if, finally, we can rid ourselves of this terrible disease.

Among my most difficult duties has been to visit farmers who have just tested positive for bovine TB, or have just had the people from Defra in to carry out the slaughter. Apart from the economic devastation this causes, the personal and emotional agony to the farming family cannot be under-stated.  Several of them simply do not recover.

The science-led badger cull is a response to their plight. It is hugely controversial. We will see footage of protests and sabotage on our TV sets and online over the coming months. I will nonetheless be urging the government to stand firm and see this through.

We should also not forget, as was exposed in the press over the weekend, that genuine animal lovers distressed by the proposed cull who are legitimately campaigning against it, have been infiltrated by extremists who look to hi-jack this issue for their own warped motives.

I imagine that the original problem dates back to the decision in 1973 to make badgers a protected species. The protection meant that badgers no longer had any natural predators. Nature will not be thwarted. It is evident that badger numbers have grown so high that they cannot live free from disease any longer. In the same way as we cull wild deer and other creatures in part for their own protection, so badger numbers should have been controlled years ago.

There are arguments against the cull and I respect them. The scientific evidence can be interpreted in different ways. The government is at the same time working on a vaccine for both cattle badgers, but this is realistically still ten years away. Farmers need action now.
It is not altogether obvious how individual badgers would be trapped, injected and then released to make any vaccine operation practicable. It is no good if you leave a few to spread the disease once again. 

It is a painful business. But then it is equally excruciating to see magnificent herds of cattle put down in their prime and to witness the impact on farming families.

posted by Gary @ 09:32